Polemical study of sex work
This article is from 2015.
Like Ryan Good’s ménage at Underbelly, Hula House is a site-specific (set in a flat) discussion of sex work. Unlike ménage, it has a clearly political message – the audience are handed leaflets that argue for decriminalisation. The intention of writer-performers Jenny Kondol and Sarah Xanthe is clear and compassionate. By dropping their characters every so often, they provide their own perspective and awareness of their limitations.
The performances, which alternate between demonstrating sexual activities and speeches about life for sex workers, return to the same point: women must have the right to be safe, and current legislation militates against the safety of sex workers. An early quiz sets out the statistics, and the appearance of plastic cocks, butt plugs and bondage gear lends the piece a playful atmosphere, that can suddenly turn nasty.
The ethical integrity of the actors is stronger than the structure of the event – repeating the same themes becomes monotonous and, despite addressing the audience directly, there's little dialogue or engagement with them. The audience are made passive – perhaps a good way to share the experience of sex work – and the more nuanced attitudes to sex work are ignored in favour of the occasional shock.
Hula House is a valuable work, that recognises the seriousness of its subject and attempts to avoid exploiting a sensational topic. The discussions it suggests are vital, and Kondol and Xanthe try hard to note their own distance from sex work. It is a little loose and fragmented, and for an immersive show, a little too imposing on the audience.
Zoo Southside, 662 6892, until 23 Aug, 8pm & 10pm, £13.50 (£11).